Following the leaders: influencer marketing for developers

November 2, 2017

Author Lucy Carey

Crystal ball

Crystal ball



Influencers are the honeypots of any good communications exercise. Grab their attention, and the masses will come swarming. But, how do you snag the notice of the proverbial cool kids of the developer world? Martin Gontovnikas (a.k.a Gonto), an engineer turned marketeer at identity as a service provider Auth0, has a lot of first-hand insight into this and that’s what he’ll be sharing in his upcoming talk at DevRelCon London.

Tapping the conference watercooler

Martin is a big fan of conferences like DevRelCon. In part, this is down to his belief that the job of the developer relations person or evangelist is to create relationships with other companies “where they can see something that’s valuable, and then help other developers based on that.” Moreover, there’s the opportunity to tap the industry hive mind that such events offer. Rather than the session content itself, for him, it’s actually getting to meet with other developer relations people to “see if we can work together on some specific things.”

Conferences have also played an important role in helping Auth0 build developer sign-up numbers. In the early days of the startup, which offers a SaaS for authentication, user numbers were looking a little flat. Martin’s team undertook a number of experiments to try to raise the company profile, trying everything from blogging to SEO optimization among others. Over time, the team were able to build up an idea of what worked best.

One thing that proved effective was simply giving Auth0 exposure at large scale events. As any serial conference goer knows, the hallway track – which takes place as people move between sessions – is often the richest seam for making connections. It was one Auth0 was particularly keen to make use of. Martin explains, “We wanted to actually start to build a relationship with the speakers.” And, he continues, “since these speakers were influencers, we were going to conferences specifically about a framework such as AngularJS or React. We started building up relationships with these people, and we started to write content about their interests. We then began to tap this network to share the things that we’d created. And, since they were the influencers or even the creators of these technologies or frameworks, they were getting a lot of views.”

All apps need authentication, so Auth0’s SDKs need to accommodate all leading languages and frameworks. Because of this, Martin’s team were able to be quite methodical in which technologies and frameworks they chose to focus on. By targeting the most popular frameworks, they were able to log sign-ups at an accelerated rate. “It was a matter of the math; how many people did we have using those frameworks, versus how many people did we think we could have based on the total market share of that framework? And then basically we were picking which ones to go after.”

Reaching further

Although there are a number of measures for popularity, just using a single metric such as the TIOBE Index isn’t reliable enough. Martin looks at Twitter, and how much attention events are garnering on the platform. Google Trends is another important resource. His team will pick out search terms related to spiking topics that are most relevant to Auth0 – for example, people looking for authentication in Angular, authentication in React, and how those searches are those changing overtime. He also observes the telemetrics on the Auth0  platform, noting which technologies existing customers are using. Conferences again are a bonus avenue for gauging the zeitgeist, simply by listening to the chatter on the expo floor.

Anyone who follows even a smattering of developer news outlets will know that the audience can be as piqued by novelty as the average fashion blog reader. They can also be twice as capricious. Martin believes there are a few factors at play here. “One is that developers like to be very lazy. The other is that they like to have fun. Personally speaking, if I always do the things the same way, I get bored. So, if I get to learn new things, or how I can do things in a new way,  it makes it more fun for me. And the other thing is that I hate doing the same things over and over – because I’m lazy. If I can find ways to write less or have a framework or something that does more for me, that’s great. So I think it’s part of that discovery.”

Taking an analytical view

Martin’s developer background is influential in his approach to marketing, and he still tries to apply an engineering point of view to his work. He sees marketing as three distinct things; brand, growth marketing, and growth product. “Anything that is analytical can be applied to growth marketing and growth product. Things like, where are we getting the leads? Why? Can we put more money there? How are we converting them?”

Even when ideas don’t pan out according to plan, there’s always room for iteration. Auth0 have an experiments template in-house, where any hypothesis based on data can be adapted and changed. It helps the team to decide things like required resources, the APIs they want to measure, or what success in a campaign would look like.  “The idea is that with that we are empowering people to try what they want as long as it’s something that is somehow measurable and it’s set up as an experiment. And then if any of those work, we expand it and we make it as a full program.”

Finally, there’s what he refers to as, “the grand part,” the emotive element of any pitch, which is less easy to hone by calculations alone. Predicting trends in tech isn’t an exact science, and there are times when even the most precise estimations can still result in wasted energy out in the field. Martin regards this aspect with a gambler’s perspective. No matter how conscientious you are in your decision making, “You’re never going to be sure. I’ve been in engineering and I like to be sure. But you’re never going to be sure if the thing you’re targeting is going to be a trend for sure or not. But I do think that in order to get a big gain, you have to bet on something.”

Join us at DevRelCon London on December 6th at the Barbican.

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